A BRAVE former-Royal Engineer servicewoman has recently returned from Mozambique, where she spent time helping civilians following the destruction caused by the recent cyclone.

Maria Larsen, 31, lives in Reading, and joined Team Rubicon, which deploys ex-soldiers and expert civilian volunteers to help in countries affected by humanitarian disasters.

In Mozambique, Maria helped deliver 231 tonnes of aid to the worst-hit and hardest to reach areas, helping more than 137,000 people in total.

As part of the role, volunteers are dropped into remote locations, where they conduct needs assessments, prepare locations for aid delivery, then organise the delivery of the required aid to the location using various modes of transport, including helicopters and boats.

Speaking about why she joined Team Rubicon, Maria said: "I spent nine years as a Royal Engineer.

"With my engineering background and my time in the army, which I loved, I felt I still had a lot that I wanted to help others with.

"As I am in the fortunate position to help others, I decided to join the team soon after leaving the army."

Maria said the work was very rewarding, but could also be difficult.

"We help especially in isolated communities," she said.

"A lot of charities help in areas affected by disasters, but very few spend days tracking somewhere to find the people who couldn't be helped because they don't live in one of the main areas.

"When we were flying low in a helicopter over some remote areas, it was hard to see old, destroyed mud huts where people had once lived, and it was difficult having to just leave some areas where we knew there were no survivors.

"We came across people who hadn't eaten in weeks,

"We heard so many stories of people who had hidden up trees and stayed there for days, and many people said they had to watch people lose strength and fall.

"That level of desperation was hard to see and hear about, but all we can do is try to track down and help those who survived.

Maria joined Team Rubicon just ten months ago but she has become an indispensable member of HQ and the Greyshirt base more broadly.

Her past work has given her a knack for problem solving and stakeholder management, and she is able to resolve ambiguity and simplify complexity.

She added: "The work is incredibly rewarding, knowing you have made such a difference to people in such desperate situations.

"The charity is only about three years old, so we are relatively new.

"Any kind of donation always helps, no matter how small, because we solely rely on the good will of other people."

To find out more about team Rubicon and to donate, visit the website